MANILA, Philippines ? On the day marking the University of the Philippines? 100th year, members of a fraternity known for its ?Oblation Run? made sure that their presence would be felt and seen in a big way.
A hundred naked members of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity Wednesday held a special edition of their yearly ?Oblation Run,? which they dubbed the ?Centennial Run.?
?This is our fraternity?s way of honoring UP on its centennial,? said APO member Menggie Cobarrubias.
Cobarrubias, who joined APO in 1970, said the hardest part in organizing the Centennial Run was getting 100 frat men to participate in the activity.
?We had to invite ?brods? from other schools. We had APO members from as far as UP Los Baños who joined this activity,? he said.
The event was such a hit among students, faculty members and other spectators that it virtually outshone the other activities scheduled in the day-long celebration of the university?s 100th Foundation Day, including the fund-raising drive for the renovation of Vinzons Hall.
?Apart from the usual protests, APO?s activity is another way for students to voice out their concerns over issues confronting the university,? said Terry Ridon, UP student regent and spokesperson of Serve the People UP.
?I?m sure Malacañang will be able to watch the run and see the overwhelming call of different sectors for President Macapagal-Arroyo to step down,? Ridon said, referring to several streamers displayed on the campus bearing the President?s face and underneath it, the words, ?Oust GMA.?
Three hours before the event, which began at around noon, a crowd of 2,000 had started to gather in front of Vinzons Hall where the ?streakers? were expected to emerge.
The APO members then came out, gold masks on top of white T-shirts covering their faces.
Immediately, the spectators ? mostly females ? screamed and trained their digital cameras, video cameras and mobile phone cameras on the young men who started handing out red roses to some of the women in the crowd.
Some women were too shy to receive the flowers but others were more game, even posing for pictures with the frat men.
?I?ll keep this as a good remembrance of my experience here,? a Caucasian woman holding a rose told the Inquirer.
?I never expected it would be this exciting,? she added.
Some elderly women in the crowd gleefully cheered on the barefooted runners.
?It has been quite a while since I saw something like this,? a 55-year-old woman said with a laugh.
As the runners made their way to the Oblation statue in front of Quezon Hall, the UP administration building, other APO members served as marshals, protecting the runners from the enthusiastic crowd.
Older members of the fraternity led by Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay showed up at the event to support their ?brods.?
Binay said he was proud of his fraternity?s tradition, which started as a prank but has since evolved into a venue for airing socially-relevant slogans.
Asked if he ever took part in an Oblation Run, he replied, ?No. I joined APO in 1960, way before the run started. But I would love to.?
The runners also stopped at Palma Hall before gathering at Quezon Hall, the UP administration building. They posed for photographers, sang the fraternity hymn and then left on board several vehicles.
Cobarrubias said the APO run was actually patterned after streakers in Hollywood. ?We started it as a prank when the Marcos dictatorship did not allow the showing of the play, ?Hubad na Bayani? which starred Robert Arevalo and myself,? he said.
Five members of the fraternity that sponsored the play ? a political satire on then President Ferdinand Marcos? dictatorial rule ? ran on campus with nothing but masks on.
?What used to be illegal and clandestine is now a much-awaited UP event,? he added.
In 2005, the annual run was marred by the presence of two nude women who grabbed the attention from the male streakers.
APO said they ?felt insulted? by the incident, saying they do not allow women to join in the activity.
In 2000, runners called for the resignation of then President Joseph Estrada, now one of Binay?s closest friends and a political ally.